While certainly not a given every year, anyone complaining about a lack of good queer films in 2021 simply wasn’t paying attention. While the impending Oscar race may be missing an all-out gay romance such as “Call Me by Your Name,” that doesn’t mean queer cinephiles can’t seek out François Ozon’s sexy and rebellious “Summer of ’85.” For those who prefer their French films on the Sapphic side, not to mentions provocative enough to inspire protests, there was Paul Verhoeven’s dark lesbian nun comedy “Benedetta.” And for campy genre lovers with an eye for fashion, “Spencer” features a wrenchingly tender moment from Sally Hawkins towards Kristen Stewart’s riveting Princess Diana.
Many of this year’s Oscar contenders are enlivened by queer themes, with much more than understated subtext or a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. Jane Campion is courting Best Director with her epic deconstructed Western “The Power of the Dog,” and the genre-agnostic animated documentary “Flee” could earn nominations across multiple best film categories. Though Rebecca Hall’s excellent “Passing” didn’t make this list for its subtler approach to queerness, star Tessa Thompson absolutely played it as a queer film. With the Academy’s loyalty to the Spanish auteur, Pedro Almodóvar’s delightful “Parallel Mothers” should easily nab a few nominations.
Though we couldn’t highlight them all, it was an excellent year for trans documentaries, including “Changing the Game,” “My Name Is Pauli Murray,” and “No Ordinary Man.” As these films attempt to build a record from a past that has been violently erased, the genre is adapting in creative ways. Narrative indies with shaggy little budgets also made a big splash this year, such as “The Novice,” “Shiva Baby,” and “Cicada,” which were all recognized with Indie Spirit nominations.
All of the titles mentioned deserve seeking out, but here are the 10 best queer films of 2021.